Clarke means business in 2022 after big purchase

White Wolf Racing’s Tom Clarke has officially staked his claim for a potential RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) title tilt after purchasing a Ford Fiesta R5.

Clarke will now be behind the wheel of Luke Anear’s former Ford Fiesta after buying the R5 spec car, which was prepared by prominent World Rally Championship outfit, M-Sport.

Having campaigned his popular Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX since 2015, Clarke was looking forward to the challenge of driving a new vehicle – especially one with the quality of the Fiesta.

“It’s pretty exciting times. We’ve taken possession of a new car for this year and the years to come. It was a change that was inevitable, it was always coming,” Clarke said.

“We’ve been talking about doing this for quite some time and we’ve spent some time with Luke (Anear) discussing some options with M-Sport and there were a couple of options there.

“Luke rang me at the end of last year and said the car is going to be up for sale and that he wants me to take it off his hands, so here we are.

“I’m really looking forward to it, you can’t get a better car, the M-Sport R5 is definitely the best car in the world I feel.

“I’ve only ever driven left hand car overseas and it hasn’t been on a rally road, so it will be a little bit different, it is something I’ll just take my time with, we’ve got a test day coming up pretty soon, so it’ll be my first opportunity to get in the car.

“I’m pretty sure his advice to me is going to be exactly the same thing. I’m sure he will have some pointers for me to show me some things when he’s got some time.”

As for the Evo, Clarke revealed it would not be locked away and may even return to the ARC.

“The car has come down to Melbourne and has gone to Danny Traverso, who is in the Targa scene and has been around for a few years,” Clarke added.

“He drives an Evo IX and has been very successful. An option for him last year was to give rally a go for which he jumped into an RS Subaru and showed he has the skills to do rally.

“As soon as I put it (Mitsubishi Evo IX) up for sale, Danny was straight on the phone and tested the car. It was gone within a few days. I think he will use it to step into the ARC.

“It was a sad day when we moved it on, but I have given it to someone who will use it and I can always grab one again or that car may come back to me one day.

“When it (the car) drove out of the garage, we all looked at it and said this is a bit of a sad day because there was always an attachment to the car – we did a lot in the car, it got me to where I am today and I owe quite a lot to it.”

Clarke and Preston during the 2021 Accent Benchtops Rally Queensland.
(Photo: CH Images)

A successful driver in his own right, the New South Welshman has spent many years running at state level and at selected ARC events, often alongside regular co-driver Ryan Preston and the duo have enjoyed plenty of podiums along the way.

However, while the Mitsubishi was a decent car, it wasn’t one that could help Clarke take the step up towards a title. Now with a world class piece of machinery in his possession, Clarke will enter the ARC season full of confidence.

“I’m absolutely excited. Over the last couple of years with COVID, it’s been pretty horrendous for any motorsport and I know all the rally guys didn’t get much in last year or over the last couple of years, so I’m absolutely looking forward to what we can do this year,” Clarke explained.

“Toyota have taken over for the last few years and I think we’ve all been sitting back and watching those guys and how far they are getting in front of us, so when this opportunity arose, we couldn’t knock it back. We had to take it and we will take our time and get into a bit of a groove. hopefully without putting any pressure on ourselves.

“The (ARC) rounds are looking fantastic. The whole hype around the ARC looks to be coming back, it’s been a long time coming again.

“I thought last year might have been it, but COVID again struck that off the list, so I think moving forward into this year and years to come is ARC is creeping back to where it should be in Australia.”

Clarke’s charge for the ARC title will begin in a few month’s time when the Netier National Capital Rally takes place in Canberra on 1-3 April.